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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

May 27, Dixon's Ferry: Atkinson Tries to Ransom the Hall Sisters

Editor's Note:

This letter from the commander of the American forces, General Henry Atkinson, to Indian Agent Henry Gratiot refers to the May 21 abduction of the Hall Sisters at Indian Creek.

Turtle Village, near modern Beloit, Wisconsin, was the site of a large Ho-Chunk village whose leaders were friendly with both the Americans and Black Hawk. Although some Ho-Chunk had joined Black Hawk and Gov. Reynolds had declared them the enemy [see this previous entry], these instructions show that Gen. Atkinson trusted them.

Beyond saving two lives, the successful ransom of the Hall sisters could raise morale in the anxious Lead Mining region. This overture would also give the Ho-Chunk a chance to confirm their intention to remain at peace with white settlers.

General Atkinson to H. Gratiot Esqr
Head Qrs. Right Wing
W D Dixons Ferry
May 27th 1832

In the attack of the Sac Indians on the Settlements... the 22d Inst, fifteen Men, Women, and Children were killed, young women were taken prisoners. This heartrending occurrence should not only call forth our sympathies but urge us to relieve the Sufferers.

You will therefore proceed to the Turtle Village or send some one of confidence, & prevaill on the head Chiefs and Braves of the Winnebagoes there to go over to the hostile Sacs and endeavour to ransom the Prisoners- offer the Winnebagoes a large reward to effect the object $500 or $1000 for each.

I expected to have heard from you before this.

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.457]

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